Passed over for a spot on the 23-man Copa America Centenario roster, rookie Jordan Morris said all the right things speaking to reporters at a Sounders training session on Tuesday.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann cited the sharp form of Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who has netted seven goals in the campaign, as one reason Morris didn’t get the call. The forward pool is a bit thin with Jozy Altidore sidelined by a hamstring injury, yet Klinsmann picked just four players in that position: Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes and Wondo.
“There are always some 50-50 moments, if it's in the back line, if it's in midfield, if it's up front,” Klinsmann said of the roster announcement televised live Saturday by Fox at halftime of its New York City FC-Red Bulls telecast. “And it came a little bit down to Wondo or Jordan. “We decided in this moment right now to go with Wondo. He's in top form. He's scoring a lot of goals for the Earthquakes. But always, when you take certain players in one area, you have to leave other ones out.”
Morris, 21, scored in his first U.S. start last year against Mexico and has not scored since then in eight appearances, most of them as a substitute. In the first two games of 2016 he replaced Altidore in the 75th minute against Iceland and started (88 minutes) against Canada. He wasn’t called by Klinsmann for the March World Cup qualifiers nor the game Sunday against Puerto Rico won by the U.S., 3-1.
“I completely respect his decision,” said Morris, who has rebounded from a slow start in MLS by scoring four goals in his last five games. “There were a lot of good forwards playing and they’re all playing really well. I wish those guys all the best. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this summer.”
Klinsmann could also have trimmed off a player from another position -- he named nine midfielders -- to make room for Morris, who realizes the caliber of scorer in his place
“He’s just such a good finisher in the box,” Morris said of Wondolowski, who is a dozen years older and the fourth all-time leadering goalscorer in MLS history (116) with 10 USA goals. He just knows how to score goals and knows his way in and around the box. He’s better than me at that for sure. I think we have different skill sets and Jurgen went with his, which is totally understandable."
The Sounders play two road games before the Centenario kicks off June 3: at New England Saturday and next Wednesday at D.C. United. Their next five games are against Eastern Conference foes.
DROGBA WATCH. At Montreal’s training session Tuesday, head coach Mauro Biello said forward Didier Drogba, who missed last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Orlando City because of a hip injury, will be assessed upon his return from London.
Drogba spent the weekend in London to visit family and deal with matters related to his charity work. He also received treatment for the injury that he suffered during a 1-1 tie with Philadelphia May 14 in which he scored a third goal in as many games.
“We got the results of the MRI and it's a mild strain of the hip flexor,” Biello said. “He did some work in London and we'll see how he is, how he reacts, and then we'll make a decision on if he'll play or not.” Montreal hosts the Galaxy Saturday at Stade Saputo.
Drogba’s scoring streak increased his goal tally this season to four in seven games, and in his 18 MLS appearances since joining the Impact last August he’s tallied 15 goals.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD. A 3-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday prompted many familiar comments from Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes, whose team won four of its first five game but since then is 1-6-2.
“People talk about chances. It’s not about scoring goals; it is about giving away silly goals,” said Vermes of a loss that dropped SKC’s record to 5-7-2. “We have given away too many silly goals. The players that are making those mistakes is a little bit hard to understand; it is just not normal.”
Sporting KC pressed the game for the first half-hour then conceded two goals before halftime. It scored five minutes after the interval but three minutes later Benny Feilhaber lost a ball in midfield and Kyle Beckerman set free Yura Movsisyan to restore the two-goal deficit. A 15-6 shot advantage and 58.2 percent of possession added up to another disappointing defeat at home, where SKC is a very tepid 3-3-1.
“I am not worried about our play,” said Vermes. “Our play is good. I am worried about giving up goals. Unfortunately, right now we have given up very easy goals to these teams. I don’t take any credit away from them, but it is just that you are gifting them stuff in and around your own box.”
Dom Dwyer’s goal in the 50th minute injected some life into SKC, but RSL’s quick response forced the home team back into desperation mode. SKC has conceded the first goal in eight of its 14 games; on those occasions it is 1-6-1.
“I think we need to finish a couple more chances, but maybe the pressure of the game got to us,” said Dwyer, the team’s top goalscorer with six. “We were forcing it a little bit and we had to chase the game so it was difficult.”